Three vacant federal judgeships in Georgia, supposedly so crucial that the vacancies have been declared “emergencies,” seem nowhere close to being filled, and the prospects for filling them could get worse as the Washington politicians look toward the 2012 elections.
The vacancies have existed for many months, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. One spot on the U.S. District Court bench in Atlanta, formally the Northern District of Georgia, has been open since February 2009, while another seat on the same court has been empty since January 2010. And a Georgia-based seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has been vacant since August 2010.
All three openings have been designated “judicial emergencies” by the people who administer federal courts, based on the time it has taken to fill them and the number of cases that would have been assigned each judge, The Journal-Constitution explains.
President Barack Obama has nominated the Atlanta federal public defender, Natasha Perdew Silas, and U.S. Magistrate Linda Walker, a former county attorney for Fulton County. If confirmed, they would be the first black women to sit on a U.S. District Court in Georgia.
Walker has the backing of Georgia’s two senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans, but Silas does not, for reasons the senators decline to discuss. Since the White House has submitted both nominees as a package, the senators’ reservations about Silas have kept both nominations from being acted upon by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As for the 11th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Alabama, Florida and Georgia, the delays have come at the White House, The Journal-Constitution writes. Stanley Birch, who was appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, retired from the court in August 2010, eight months after giving notice to the Obama White House.
Because Birch is from Atlanta, his successor will be from Georgia. Earlier this year, the White House began vetting Daisy Floyd, who served as dean of Mercer University’s law school in Macon. But the administration never nominated her, for reasons the White House has declined to comment on, so Birch’s seat continues to be vacant.
The confirmation process will slow even further once the presidential campaign accelerates, University of Richmond professor Carl Tobias, who tracks judicial nominations, told The Journal-Constitution. “Every Obama nominee they confirm is one less the new Republican president gets to appoint — that’s the kind of mind set you have,” Tobias said. “Democrats do the same thing when you get Republicans in the White House. That’s a reality. That will happen. In the summer it will just shut down.”